No people, Steve Martin hasn’t died. On the contrary, it’s just that his career had taken such a dip in quality that he’s been passing on this plane of existence as a spirit that was once funny.
Why do I say that? For starters, I’ve been watching the first three seasons of Saturday Night Live nonstop as of late, and when you watch him perform, the asshole witty charm oozes out of him. You look at this man, wondering if he’s always had white hair (I haven’t seen a picture that hasn’t).
You watch his classic stand up act and while bizarre and extremely dirty, you can’t help but be charmed by Mr. Martin. His records were best sellers, King Tut (on the album Wild and Crazy Guys) being a huge hit the radio. A million seller for that album alone.
An Emmy and 2 time Grammy winner and Oscar nominated individual (his short film The Absent Minded Waiter was nominated for best short film, live action in 1977), his first film was the abysmal but hysterical (but not sure if intended) live action film of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. He’s the one singing Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. But then success came when he helped write and starred in the classic comedy The Jerk, a Carl Reiner directed picture. I remember watching that film and just laughing my ass off at a young age that I didn’t understand half the jokes. One of his films that I like a lot but was a failure in theaters was Pennies From Heaven. At this time in his life, he didn’t want to be typecast as that ‘crazy comedy guy’ so he was always trying to evolve, to make people laugh and to make them think. And sometimes try his hand at something off-kilter.
After this was his most fruitful time, doing a series of films that changed my childhood forever. Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, The Man With Two Brains, All of Me (all three directed by Carl Reiner), Three Amigos, Little Shop of Horrors, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Roxanne and one of my favorites, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (which was made into a halfway decent musical comedy).
Hell, I even like Father of the Bride. My girlfriend is a huge fan of that and it’s sequel, but he had that cute sensibility, just trying to get his life together on the screen which made audiences love him.
I still have a special place in my heart for both LA Story and My Blue Heaven. And then he had a great duo of serious roles that spanned a whopping 6 years. Grand Canyon and The Spanish Prisoner. Netflix both of those films if you want to see Martin in roles you never thought he had in him.
And then the downfall started. With the horrible remake of The Out of Towners co-starring everyone’s favorite skeleton Goldie Hawn. Ugh, I saw that in theaters with friends and was the only one not laughing. Suffice to say, I don’t talk to those people anymore. Then he did a film that when the trailers were out, made my skin crawl like you wouldn’t believe. Bringing Down the House was a horrible mess, with bad racist undertones and one of the worst comedic turns by Eugene Levy (and yes, this was before he whored out to all those American Pie movies or made that movie The Man, now there was a steaming pile). It starred rapper, turned entrepreneur, turned drunk driver turned ‘is she a lesbian?’, turned acting thespian Queen Latifah. And then the triple whammy of Cheaper by the Dozen, Cheaper by the Dozen 2 and Looney Tunes: Back in Action. I’m not sure if and what kinds of drugs he was on at this time, but I know Spencer Tracy wouldn’t make a sequel to a classic family movie that he made.
He kind of bounced back with Shopgirl. Based on his own novella, it was a very simple movie, and I enjoyed it a bit. He also just came out with a fantastic memoir called Born Standing Up. It’s a funny read, a intimate look inside his personal life.
So what can become of the great Steve Martin. Will he ever get away from movies such as The Pink Panther (well, probably not, considering the sequel comes out in January. Right now, Peter Sellers did a pratfall in his grave)? I hope so. Hosting Saturday Night Live a record 14 times can make someone very comfortable (I’ll admit, I haven’t watched much of SNL for the last 8 years. But I did catch his last episode back in 2006).
I’ll end this on a quote, which I hope reflects why I still hold out hope for the purveyor of Steve Martin’s Penis Cream.
“I think there’s nothing better for a person to come up and do the same
thing over and over for two weeks. This is what I enjoy, so I’m going
to do the same thing over and over and over….I’m going to do the same
joke over and over in the same show, it’ll be like a new thing.”
Ahh, always a comedy pioneer.